Your business needs to move fast. As the pace of work increases, teams need to do more in less time. But what happens if you have a slow worker on your team? Not only can a single person dramatically decrease productivity, they can also lower team morale — which means an even bigger hit to productivity.
Here are five things a team leader can do to help a slow-moving employee improve their pace of execution:
1. Talk With the Employee
Start by listening. Sit down with the employee and ask how they feel about the pace of their performance. Focus on listening to what your employee has to say, instead of talking about the problem or how it affects you. Ask the employee — in a nonjudgmental way — why they move slowly. Common reasons employees are slow include feeling overwhelmed, being a perfectionist, or not being able to focus to due interruptions.
2. Teach Project Management Skills
Often, employees simply don’t know how long you expect certain tasks to take. Many people are more productive when larger tasks are broken into smaller milestones, because they feel the satisfaction of completion for each milestone. It also makes it easier to track their progress.
Work together to set due dates and create a tracking system. Use a work-execution tool, such as Smartsheet, to track tasks and due dates. Consider setting alerts, updates, and reminders in Smartsheet for the employee. This also lets you request updates from the employee without interrupting their progress with a visit, call, or email.
3. Make Changes to Improve Your Employee’s Focus
Talk with your employee about what environment they need to focus. In a recent report entitled “Mind the Workplace” by Mental Health America, more than a 77 percent of respondents reported that they were “always or often” distracted most of the time at work — for between 31-40 hours. If chatty neighbors or smells from the breakroom are breaking their concentration, consider moving their desk.
For open floor plans, offer a closed-door office for when employees need deep focus. Another option may be letting the employee work from home one day a week to avoid the office distractions. Some workers find listening to focus music, such as Brain.fm, to improve concentration for deep work. Other people use apps, such as Freedom and Focus, to block distracting websites and social media.
Ask the employee how often they check email, as well as how often they get interrupted by instant messages and phone calls. Remind the employee to send the phone to voicemail and set IM to Do Not Disturb when they need to get things done.
4. Provide Time-Saving Tools
Have your employee walk you through how they complete their tasks and look for ways they can automate or save time. According to Staples Business Advantage Workplace Index, 75 percent of workers feel that their employers don’t provide technology that can improve their productivity.
Consider asking your employee use a voice recorder or notes app to save ideas during their commute. Also look for ways to use Smartsheet to automate repetitive tasks. If waiting for your approval on tasks is causing the employee to spend time waiting, set up approval rules to eliminate bottlenecks. You can also help your employee set up the calendar view or Gannt chart view to help them better visualize deadlines and dependencies.
5. Create a Feedback Loop
Instead of viewing feedback as a one-way street — you telling the employee if their performance speed has improved — think of feedback as going both ways, with your employee lets you know how the different strategies are working, and you provide insight from your vantage point. Determine how often you will touch base with the employee and keep to that schedule. Be sure to celebrate successes, even small ones, to help motivate your employee. By tracking projects in a real-time tool such as Smartsheet, you can get a bird’s-eye view into your employee’s progress and productivity without interrupting them. You can also set up alerts based on productivity milestones so you are notified if a project is in danger of being late.
More often than not, a slow employee is not going to magically become more productive on their own. By working with the employee instead of focusing on the negative, you can improve your teams productivity and have a happier employee in the process.
Look on the Bright Side
Sometimes, someone’s weaknesses are the “flip side” of one of their biggest assets. Does your slowest employee make the fewest errors? Are they able to perform more detailed work than other employees? If overall the benefits of their pace outweigh the negatives, then the right answer may be assigning the employee tasks that play to their strengths.